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Ghost town is a reminder of knowledge lost

Amanda Radke Abandoned Building
An abandoned town in South Dakota is a reminder of struggling rural America and information lost from generations long gone.

I recently read an article about a ghost town in South Dakota — Capa was founded in 1908 and is located nine miles from the small rural town of Midland. Capa once had a hotel, newspaper and U.S. Post Office, but today, it’s home to one rancher.

Photos of Capa include three abandoned outhouses, 14 buildings including several houses, a sagging Catholic church and old rusted trucks. In between the buildings, cattle and bison roam and graze.

Written by Catherine Armstrong for Only In Your State, the article describes the town as “creepy” and the “stuff that nightmares are made of.”

To me, the ghost town isn’t exactly scary, but it’s a haunting reminder of what is happening in rural America in flyover states across the country.

READ: The decline of rural populations and its implications on the U.S.

Production agriculture has become increasingly risky. Once thriving industries are shut down due to restrictive regulations and mandates. The lure of urban cities with restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, parks, top notch schools and high-paying job opportunities is incredibly tempting.

And with each generation, fewer and fewer families stick around, leaving the small local shops, area businesses, rural schools, hospital and grocery stores struggling to keep their doors open and serving the residents of these communities.

Not only does the town of Capa remind me of this growing problem in rural America, but I’m also left wondering what knowledge the residents of this ghost town had back then that we have long forgotten today.

READ: Perdue releases rural task force report

In the age of smart phones, social media, apps and instant 24/7 news, what have we left behind in our reliance on the latest and greatest technologies? Granted, today’s society is much easier in so many ways; we have the world at our finger tips, and nothing seems unattainable anymore.

Yet in our efforts to utilize the latest advancements to produce more, be more, have more, travel more and experience more, have we ditched the beauties of a simpler life where knowledge was spread word-of-mouth, neighbors relied on neighbors, kids played outside and used their imaginations and families ate together around the dinner table without the distraction of phones, computers and the outside world?

Call me nostalgic for a world long gone, but I want my kids to experience more of a Laura Ingalls Wilder life and less of a Kim Kardashian one. I believe keeping my roots deep in agriculture will help me achieve that. My kids are sixth generation ranchers, and because they have the opportunity to live on a farm, they will know the value of hard work (learned best by picking up a pitch fork and using it), and they will understand the meaning of the circle of life (by seeing it firsthand from calving to the deep freezer), and they will have a firm grip on reality by learning about the financial management it takes to run a cattle operation (in the hopes it will set them up for financial intelligence when they are adults).

More than a century ago, life must have been pretty tough — no water, electricity or cars in sight. Yet, in so many ways, it’s just the simplicities in life we need not only to survive but to thrive.

This week, make an effort to stop into one of your small town’s local cafes or shops. Stop to visit with a neighbor you haven’t talked with in ages. Get your kids outside with no plans for how to entertain them. And remember how fortunate you are to live in agriculture, where our feet are firmly planted on the ground yet our dreams are unlimited.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

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